Within the high-stakes back-drop of Las Vegas, the film straightforwardly becomes a story about the grueling world of gambling and betting. The various gambling characters create a whole new world of their own. And they bring us a gist of stories about human relationships – inhabiting a number of snapshots of personal dramas that unfold in every laying out of the cards.
The front story is clear: Huck is a hotshot poker player whose emotions at the table often gets the better of him amidst his exceptional skills, especially when he goes heads up with his estranged father, a living legend in the poker world and two-time world champion L. C. Cheever (Robert Duvall). While living his life without clear direction, he meets a struggling singer Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore), and from then on, he keeps up with something more than just poker.
The boy-meets-girl premise clearly shows a romantic story in the making. And within the film’s physicality lies a character-driven story based from the usual formula for a Hollywood narrative.
Huck deals with life through his instincts. And this enables him to take advantage of his opponents at the poker table. Meanwhile, Billie uses intuition to see the truth and sympathize with what she sees around. And while they fall in love, the turn of events shows that their good instincts play big parts in their lives. However, their biggest difference becomes more apparent – Huck is a very talented man who uses his instincts to expertly avoid emotional connections and long-term commitments to win the games; while Billie lacks the talent but she uses her instincts to do things straight and opens her heart to become emotionally connected for the sake of what is right and what is good. And within the gambling capital of the world, these two people looking for better meanings on their lives try to gamble for love in a story filled with drama, humor, and metaphors.
With “L. A. Confidential,” “Wonder Boys,” “8 Mile,” and “In Her Shoes” under his belt, director Curtis Hanson mainly keeps his work character-driven. And working with scriptwriter Eric Roth (the man behind the Academy Award winning script of “Forrest Gump”), the two tend to make the general interior scenes within the poker tables and well-lit hotels/casinos interesting enough for both the big-time and real-life gamblers and those curious ones who are not really much into it.
The characters inhabit certain personalities that help recreate the gambling realm for the story while following the tried and tested mainstream formula of the main character overcoming adversity and succeeding in the end for that feel good effect.
At some point, the film tries to cut the predictable formula by turning a bit away from its predictable twists; however, the mere breaking of it turns out quite syrupy and formulaic still.
“Lucky You” gives a gist of how poker works. It makes the game look generally interesting and less ‘sinful.’ However, for somebody who is not knowledgeable in playing poker at all, it’s hard to catch up with the basic mechanics of the game while watching the film that you just have to yield to whatever comes in order to keep up with the story.